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Case: 15-12188

Date Filed: 04/22/2016

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[DO NOT PUBLISH]


IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
________________________
No. 15-12188
Non-Argument Calendar
________________________
D.C. Docket No. 6:14-cv-01485-GAP-GJK

ARELIS NUNEZ,
Plaintiff-Appellant,
versus
J.P. MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A.,
a Delaware Corporation,
MANUFACTURERS AND TRADERS TRUST COMPANY,
a New York Corporation,
d.b.a. M and T Bank,
BAYVIEW LOAN SERVICING LLC,
a Delaware Limited Liability Company,
Defendants-Appellees.
________________________
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Florida
________________________
(April 22, 2016)

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Before MARTIN, JORDAN, and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges.


PER CURIAM:
Arelis Nunez appeals the district courts grant of motions to dismiss her
amended complaint for failure to state a claim. She alleged that J.P. Morgan Chase
Bank, N.A. (Chase), Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (M and T),
and Bayview Loan Servicing LLC (Bayview) violated the Real Estate Settlement
Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2601 et. seq. (RESPA), and that Chase committed
negligence per se, by mishandling her home mortgage after she temporarily fell
into delinquency. Nunez sent two RESPA notices of error to Chase and one to
Bayview alleging various mortgage account errors. First, she says Chase wrongly
allowed her home to be foreclosed on despite having signed a loan-modification
agreement with her. Second, she says Chase acted inconsistently with the loanmodification agreement before transferring the mortgage to M and T, which she
also believes violated the agreement. The district court ignored Nunezs second set
of allegations and did not construe the facts favorably to her. After careful
consideration, we reverse and remand.
I.
We review de novo the district courts grant of a motion to dismiss under
[Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, accepting the
allegations in the complaint as true and construing them in the light most favorable
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to the plaintiff. Ironworkers Local Union 68 v. AstraZeneca Pharm., LP, 634


F.3d 1352, 1359 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted). Even when assertions in a
complaint are arguably ambiguous, they should be construed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. S. Everglades
Restoration Alliance, 304 F.3d 1076, 108384 (11th Cir. 2002). To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint need only contain sufficient facts, accepted as true,
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). It must raise a right to relief
above the speculative level. Id. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1965.
RESPAas implemented by Regulation X, 12 C.F.R. 1024 (2015)
allows borrowers to notify mortgage servicers of possible account errors. See 12
C.F.R. 1024.35. Once properly notified, a servicer must respond in one of two
ways:
(A) Correct[] the error or errors identified by the borrower and
provid[e] the borrower with a written notification of the correction,
the effective date of the correction, and contact information, including
a telephone number, for further assistance; or
(B) Conduct[] a reasonable investigation and provid[e] the borrower
with a written notification that includes a statement that the servicer
has determined that no error occurred, a statement of the reason or
reasons for this determination, a statement of the borrower's right to
request documents relied upon by the servicer in reaching its
determination, information regarding how the borrower can request
such documents, and contact information, including a telephone
number, for further assistance.
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Id. 1024.35(e)(1)(i). Account errors are broadly defined by 1024.35(b), which


includes a residual category for [a]ny other error relating to the servicing of a
borrowers mortgage loan. Id. 1024.35(b)(11).
II.
Nunez fell behind on her home mortgageoriginally serviced by Chasein
2010. Chase initiated foreclosure proceedings and received judgment in its favor
in October 2012. However, before the foreclosure sale took place, Nunez and
Chase entered into a loan-modification agreement in January 2013,1 which allowed
her to avoid foreclosure by making reduced monthly payments. Or so she thought.
Despite the loan-modification agreement, Chase failed to timely notify the
state court that the foreclosure sale should be cancelled or continued. Chase had
originally requested that the state court postpone the foreclosure sale, which was
rescheduled for March 20, 2013. But Chase waited too late to request further
postponementits foreclosure attorneys asked on the eve of the sale, despite a
requirement that such requests be heard at least ten days beforehand. 2 The
foreclosure sale proceeded and Nunezs property was sold on March 20, 2013. She
claimed that she suffered eviction attempts as a result.
1

Chase disputes when this agreement began, claiming it did not take full effect until May 2013
because the initial period was merely a trial. As the district court noted, this period was only a
trial insofar as final approval depended on Nunez making the reduced payments (which she
did)Chase did not retain total discretion over whether to grant a permanent loan modification.
2

The exact number of days before the sale that Chase sent the request is not clear, but it appears
to have been between one and five.
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Notwithstanding the foreclosure sale, Nunez submitted all her trial


payments and was approved for a permanent loan modification in May 2013.
Around the same time, Chase sought to rescind the foreclosure sale. When this
failed, Chase cancelled the loan-modification agreement with Nunez and stopped
applying her payments to the loan (though it retained them in a suspense
account). In February 2014, Chase began again with the rescission process. The
next month, Nunez sent a RESPA notice of error letter to Chase, informing it of the
wrongful foreclosure on her home and requesting that it investigate and remedy the
error by implement[ing] the terms of the loan modification agreement.
Chase promptly responded. Despite documenting this chain of events,
Chase maintained that there has not been an error with [Nunezs] loan. It
averred that the loan-modification agreement had been canceled, but said that
[i]f the [rescission] is approved, we can then review [Nunezs] mortgage for a
modification. The foreclosure sale was ultimately rescinded on May 15, 2014.
In late May and early June of 2014, Chase reopened negotiations for a loanmodification agreement with Nunez. Chase said it could renew the old loanmodification agreement if Nunez paid $3,450.09 toward her account. Chase
acknowledges that she did so on July 3, 2014.
Nevertheless, Nunez continued to receive letters from Chase titled
Acceleration Warning (Notice of Intent to Foreclose). Inconsistent with the
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loan-modification agreement, these letters claimed that Nunez was in default, listed
substantial (and conflicting) payments that were supposedly past due, and
threatened another foreclosure. Nunez claimed that the three such letters she
attached to her amended complaint were simply examples [and] are not intended
to be exhaustive.
The renewed loan-modification agreement was completed in late August
2014. Significantly, Nunez did not concede that the loan-modification was ever
successfully implementedquite the contrary. See infra pp. 910. Nunez filed
this lawsuit against Chase on September 10, 2014. She also sent a second RESPA
notice of error letter to Chase, documenting its continued failure to honor [her]
loan modification agreement. Once again, Chase responded by denying any error.
On September 16, 2014, Nunezs loan was transferred to M and T. 3 Chase
alleged that this transfer occurred with the modified loan terms and monthly
payment in place. On the other hand, Nunez alleged that the servicing errors
regarding the loan-modification agreement were ongoing. For support, she
attached to her amended complaint: (1) a September 30th letter from M and T
stating that you are presently in default and threatening another foreclosure, and
(2) an October 2nd letter from Bayview stating that [y]our account may have been
referred to an attorney for legal action, and additional fees and charges may be

Bayview allegedly partnered with M and T to service loans, including Nunezs.


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accruing. Nunez sent a third RESPA notice of error letter, this time to Bayview,
on October 8, 2014. She documented the past problems with her account and
requested that Bayview confirm that the loan modification has been completely
boarded and that your company will not take further collection activity. Neither
Bayview nor M and T ever responded.
In her amended complaint, Nunez claimed that (1) Chase had violated
RESPA by failing to reasonably investigate and respond to her two notices of
error; (2) Chase had thereby committed negligence per se; and (3) Bayview and M
and T had violated RESPA by failing to respond to her third notice of error. The
defendants both moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim, and Nunez responded. The district court granted both motions and
denied Nunezs request for reconsideration. Nunez timely appealed.
III.
The district court erred by granting the defendants motions to dismiss. The
court did not properly construe the facts alleged by Nunez in accord with the
standard applied on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Specifically, the district court
construed Chases [q]uizzical[] responses to Nunezs notices of error as evidence
of a reasonable investigation that fix[ed] the problem, all while relying on
unsupported inferences about Chases intentions and versions of the facts that
contradict the allegations in Nunezs amended complaint.
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In concluding that Chases responses complied with the letter and spirit of
[RESPA], the district court impermissibly drew inferences in Chases favor.
Despite acknowledging that Chases finding of no error was odd conclusion and
stands in contrast to the history traced out in the loan, the court took it upon itself
to offer a fairer assessment of Chases real intentions. The [q]uizzical[]
responses, the court speculated, were actually a ruse designed to comply with
[RESPAs] binary response options. That is, Chase chose to repeatedly state
that no error had occurreddespite secretly conclud[ing] that there was a
problembecause RESPA does not contemplate errors of the type that cannot
be fixed within the thirty day response deadline. According to the district court,
Chases unreasonable assessments of the situation were just an adept workaround.
This analysis simply failed to give proper deference to what Nunez said in her
pleadings.
Beyond that, the district court ignored another set of Nunezs allegations and
again construed facts favorably to the defendants. Throughout this case, Nunez
has clearly alleged that Chase failed to properly implement and honor the loanmodification agreement, and she has attached documents that support this claim.
See, e.g., Doc. 1 at 6 ([A]s the documents attached hereto as Exhibit D reflect,
Chase continues to fail to honor the loan modification agreement, and is once again
pursuing foreclosure and collection activity.); Doc. 24 at 7 ([A]s the documents
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attached hereto as Exhibit D and F reflect, Chase continued to fail to honor


the[] loan modification agreement, and continued to pursue foreclosure and
collection activity for the entire time that it serviced Plaintiffs loan.); Id. at 10
([Chase] fail[ed] to properly handle and implement [Plaintiffs] approved loan
modification.). In deciding Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, the district court
was required to accept these allegations as true and construe all facts in the light
most favorable to Nunez. Ironworkers Local Union 68, 634 F.3d at 1359. Instead,
the court ignored these allegations and concluded that Chase [did] the best it
could, fix[ed] the problem, and put [Nunez] in her desired modified repayment
program. These conclusions were not proper in deciding Rule 12(b)(6) motions.
Viewed in the light most favorable to her, Nunez has alleged that her home
was wrongly foreclosed on despite a valid loan-modification agreement, simply
because Chase failed to timely request postponement of the foreclosure. Chase
later purported to cancel its loan-modification agreement with her because it could
not rescind the wrongful foreclosure. Even though it eventually did rescind the
foreclosure and accept payment from Nunez to renew the loan-modification
agreement, Chase continued to shower Nunez with letters claiming she was in
default and threatening another foreclosure. When she repeatedly notified Chase
that these errors had occurred, Chase flatly denied any error. Nunezs
allegationseach supported by attachmentsare not reflected in the district
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courts conclusions. Her claim that Chase failed to conduct a reasonable


investigation into or correct its errors as required by RESPA rises above the level
of speculation. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. at 1965.
Attempting to justify the improper standard applied by the district court, the
defendants argue that the court merely favored facts from Nunezs attachments
over her conclusory and unwarranted accusations. However, the facts that the
defendants allude to are taken from Chases own letters. For example, in response
to Nunezs claim that Chase failed to properly implement the loan-modification
agreement, the defendants point to: (1) Chases second letter denying any error,
and (2) Chases letter enclosing the renewed loan-modification agreement.4 These
documents do not contain specific factual details that foreclose recovery as a
matter of law. Griffin Indus., Inc. v. Irvin, 496 F.3d 1189, 1206 (11th Cir. 2007)
(quotation omitted). They are legal documents, drafted by one of the movants,
which contain disputed accounts of the facts. Elevating claims in Chases own
letters over the plaintiffs allegations in the amended complaint and in other
attachments would turn the standard for considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion on its
head.

To the extent the second letter is cited to show that the loan-modification agreement was
executed by Chase in August 2014, it is not even relevant. Nunez does not dispute this fact. She
contends that Chase did not properly implement or honor the loan-modification agreement, not
that it didnt exist.
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The district courts dismissals of Nunezs RESPA claim against Bayview


and M and T, as well as Nunezs negligence per se claim against Chase, were
premised on the reasoning we rejected above. For the RESPA claim against
Bayview and M and T, the district court concluded that dismissal was proper
because Chase had already adequately responded to Nunezs concerns. For the
negligence per se claim against Chase, the district court concluded that dismissal
was warranted because RESPA had not been violated. These conclusions cannot
stand at this stage of the proceedings. After careful consideration of the record
before us and the parties briefs, we REVERSE and REMAND.
REVERSED and REMANDED

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